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Unreliable electricity feeder replacement OK’d

By Kirsten Laskey

To improve the reliability of an obsolete electrical feeder that has been wreaking havoc on parts of Los Alamos for nearly two years, the county council Tuesday evening unanimously approved its replacement.

The total cost of the Feeder 15-16 Replacement Project is just over $1.2 million. The project includes design, placement and updating the conductors of a single pole, double circuit overhead power line. The line runs from the south side of Pueblo Canyon to the Los Alamos Golf Course.

Through this replacement project, customers will be served by self-supporting steel pole structures across Pueblo Canyon. The new conductor size doubles present capacity and in emergency situations allows either feeder to carry a combined load for all 3,600 affected customers.

The 1.75-mile long power line serves homes in North Community, Barranca Mesa and North Mesa. It is more than 60 years old and its deteriorating condition has led to three major power outages, averaging five hours per outage, in the last 20 months. Also, the poles crossing the canyon are stressed, showing severe signs of weathering, according to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU).

“This project will go a long way to improving the reliability on the North Mesa and Barranca Mesa side of town, so it’s really important we complete that project and there is a lot of interest on council to improve the reliability of the system,” Councilor Michael Wheeler said.

The DPU recently postponed requesting a rate hike initially deemed necessary to upgrade the county’s infrastructure. DPU Manager John Arrowsmith said he was pleased to see the project come before council and be approved.

“The existing facility we are replacing is about 60 years old so the new conductor is much larger and heavier so the poles being built will hold that weight as well as the communication infrastructure (cable television and phone),” Arrowsmith said Wednesday. “It will also be engineered to withstand the winds in the canyon and it will have lightning protection.”

Council approved Sturgeon Electric Company to install the new circuit. That construction is expected to start in early April and should take 90 days.

The DPU also intends to prioritize the implementation of additional improvements as much as possible while maintaining current rates, Arrowsmith said.

Contact Kirsten Laskey at lareporter@lamonitor.com

Let There Be Light

Two questions: 1. I thought part of the long process of recovery from the Cerro Grande Fire was to put in underground utilities. Why are we just now putting in steel power poles?

2. Why in the world did it take the council TWO YEARS to decide to address this problem, when LA business's and residents suffered power outages? The cost is minimal compared to the numerous studies, outside consultants and other spending our council has determined necessary.

Just wanted to know.